With the start of Super League just days away, we looked through the games that have kicked off the previous 22 seasons.
Champions Leeds travel to Warrington to kick-off the season, while Hull will also host Huddersfield on the same evening.
In this second of a three part season, we look at the first games of Super League from 2003 to 2010.
2003 (February 21) – St Helens 46-22 Bradford Bulls
This was the first time the Super League season had started before March and it was also the first match since these two faced each other in the Old Trafford Grand Final infamous for Chris Joynt’s voluntary tackle.
St Helens tries: John Kirkpatrick (2), Paul Sculthorpe (2), Adrian Gardner, Mickey Higham, Jason Hooper, Barry Ward. Goals: Sean Long (7)
Bradford tries: Leon Pryce (2), Lee Radford. Goals: Paul Deacon (5)
2004 (February 20) – Bradford Bulls 34-6 Wigan Warriors
Big Lesley Vainikolo crossed for five tries as the Bulls started the season with a thumping of Wigan in what was a repeat of the previous season’s Grand Final. The Bulls ran in seven tries in total in what was a peak era for them, even with Karl Pratt lining up at scrum half. Vainikolo added to his growing reputation as the best winger in the world, while for the Bulls it was another momentum builder having secured the World Club Challenge the week previous against Penrith Panthers. There were plenty of familiar names in the Wigan team, including now chief Kris Radlinski, Sky TV presenter Brian Carney, current Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin and the late Terry Newton.
Bradford tries: Lesley Vainikolo (5), Aaron Smith, Michael Withers. Goals: Michael Withers (3)
Wigan tries: Danny Orr. Goals: Danny Orr
2005 (February 11) – Hull 12-16 Leeds Rhinos
Three games kicked off the 2005 season, with St Helens beating Widnes 40-18 and Wigan winning 15-4 over Salford but it was champions Leeds who grabbed the stand-out win, 16-12 at Hull in front of more than 17,000 at the KC Stadium. It was a club record 14th consecutive Super League game without defeat for the Rhinos, and they held off a fightback from the Airlie Birds having led 12-2 at half time.
Hull tries: Gareth Raynor, Tommy Saxton. Goals: Paul Cooke (2).
Leeds tries: Marcus Bai, Keith Senior, Chev Walker. Goals: Kevin Sinfield (2)
2006 (February 10) – Castleford Tigers 18-42 Hull FC
A break to the recent norm as the champions, Bradford, aren’t selected to open the season. Instead, a fairly low-key affair sees Hull win 42-18 at Castleford in front of a 10,000+ crowd at The Jungle. The following night, Catalans Dragons would make their bow in Super League with a famous 38-30 win over Wigan. This weekend also saw the Harlequins brand play in rugby league for the first time, with London Broncos having made the move to Twickenham Stoop.
Castleford tries: Gray Viane (2), Richard Fa’aoso, Ryan McGoldrick. Goals: Richard Fletcher.
Hull tries: Kirk Yeaman (2), Nathan Blacklock, Shaun Briscoe, Paul Cooke, Sid Domic, Peter Lupton, Gareth Raynor. Goals: Danny Brough (3), Paul Cooke (2)
2007 (February 4) – Huddersfield Giants 10-18 St Helens
Champions St Helens were afforded a tricky start to the 2007 season as they opened up with a stand-alone 18-10 win at Huddersfield, before going down 14-6 at home to a Danny Orr inspired Harlequins in the snow at Knowsley Road the following Friday. Brothers Ade and Matt Gardner would go head to head and both score a try as Saints beat the Giants to open the season with a win.
Huddersfield tries: Matt Gardner. Goals: Chris Thorman (3)
St Helens tries: Lee Gilmour (2), Ade Gardner, Leon Pryce. Goals: Sean Long.
2008 (February 2) – Leeds Rhinos 20-12 Hull KR
Another opener brought forward as a stand alone fixture to accommodate the World Club Challenge, champions Leeds got out of jail in this one thanks to two late Lee Smith tries. Justin Morgan’s Robins pushed them all the way in only their second season in Super League.
Leeds tries: Lee Smith (2), Scott Donald, Danny McGuire. Goals: Kevin Sinfield (2).
Hull KR tries: Jake Webster (2). Goals: Garret Crossman, Jake Webster.
2009 (February 6) – Leeds Rhinos 28-6 Celtic Crusaders
A landmark occasion as Super League newcomers Celtic Crusaders became the first Welsh team to play in the competition and complete their move up the rugby league ladder. They weren’t afforded a nice welcome though by the Rhinos, who were 22-0 up at half time though John Dixon’s men were significantly more competitive in the second half, even without eight missing new signings due to work permit issues. Jamie Peacock and Adam Peek sat out the final 10 minutes having been sin-binned for fighting after a scrum. Lee Smith scored a brace of tries on opening night for the second successive season.
Leeds tries: Lee Smith (2), Carl Ablett, Scott Donald, Ryan Hall. Goals: Kevin Sinfield (4)
Celtic tries: Dyer. Goals: Hannay
2010 (January 29) – Crusaders 6-34 Leeds
A reverse to the previous season and the earliest start to a Super League season ever as the new look Crusaders, now housed at Wrexham, welcomed the champions to a packed house on a snowy night in north Wales. More than 10,000 filled the Racecourse to watch Brian Noble’s first game in charge go in a similar way to what we’d seen the year before. A young Kallum Watkins started at full back for Leeds.
Crusaders tries: Raynor. Goals: Witt
Leeds tries: Lauiti’iti (2), Dealney, Donald, McGuire, Sinfield. Goals: Sinfield (5)